It’s no secret that travel has undergone something of a revolution over the past few years. With the travel risks and restrictions of the pandemic, combined with a considerably elevated awareness for the climate, the aviation industry has seen a change which no-one expected: an increase in private jet usage. Those who used to travel first-class are now flying private, especially for short haul charters. This may seem counter intuitive to the idea of protecting our global climate, however as we discussed 12 months ago, we can only improve our air travel by continuing to invest in it, thus allowing increased research and development, whether that comes in the form or electric flight, hydrogen fuels or even synthetic fuels—stopping flying is not the answer, and for so many is not an option—plus, the tourism economy of so many communities and countries rely on air travel to provide a frictionless transit of guests to and from destinations.
To really get under the skin of the situation and the evolution which air travel has seen, we spoke to Victor Co-CEO Toby Edwards, to understand how they operate luxury private jet charters, why there has been a resurgence, how it is more accessible than many think and not forgetting how they can do so with a constant eye on the environmental impact….
Toby, for so many the idea of chartering a private jet just doesn’t add-up, but what would you say are the unique experiences of a private jet charter like for those who haven’t explored this option before?
It is utterly seamless.
For starters, the time between arriving at the private jet terminal in your chauffeur driven car and departing is a matter of minutes, rather than hours.
The pilots - and crew, depending on the size of the aircraft, will ensure you feel relaxed prior to take off offering you a drink, or showing you hidden away cupboards where snacks and refreshments can be found.
Flying private for the first time you will appreciate both the intimacy alongside your family or friends as well as more subtle experiences such as easily being able to look out the cockpit window as well as both sides, or the rapid acceleration and subsequent short time on the runway during take-off.
The level of privacy is absolute. Two sets of families, and a nanny can fit on one aircraft, so that you can relax into holiday-mode from the moment you take off.
Arriving is less stressful too...
No long queues clearing passport control, and no worries about whether your ski equipment has been damaged on the way. And of course, you have arrived at your chosen airport, which is likely to be closer to your end destination. Flying into Chambery, for example, is much closer to most major ski resorts than any other main international airport.
The travel industry has clearly been shaken up over the past two years or more, how has your business changed?
First Covid, then the war in Ukraine – both have had a significant impact on our business – predominantly in terms of operational changes in adapting to ‘new normal’. Fortunately, the business has remained robust and profitable throughout, however we’ve had to adapt our processes as a result.
At a high-level, it has been even more important than ever to be able to provide a best-in-class, high-touch customer service to our customers.
The travel restrictions that came with Covid meant our team had to stay updated with continuously changing rules, and help our clients handle all the new paperwork in advance to avoid any issues that could jeopardise their experience with us on the day.
We work with hundreds of operators worldwide who had to manage their own new challenges such as aircraft cleanliness and the safety of their crew, so the role of brokers grew.
We also introduced Victor Rescue, which is a direct response service offering personalised 24/7 emergency and mission-critical support. The process has been designed with transparency and compassion in mind, and it is both flexible and reliable. It was utilised during the initial height of the pandemic to fly people safely back home, and quickly.
The war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russians similarly added to our list of responsibilities. We had to immediately introduce a new passenger declaration form, as well as update our Member Terms and Conditions.
Fortunately, between us, we have a lot of years’ experience within the Victor team, which helped us quickly adapt in both instances. I couldn’t be prouder of the resilience the team has shown during such shaky times.
Innovation is a huge part of the aviation industry, not just making things more luxurious or bigger, but searching for solutions to real problems. How do you see aviation changing in the years to come?
At Victor we believe in a better way to fly. Our aim is to become the no.1 on-demand charter business worldwide, so we’re passionate about innovation. During the past 10 years, a lot of our investment has gone into technology, for instance ‘paperless’ charter contracts (funny, that this felt like a big deal at the time yet is now the norm) and creating an omnichannel platform for our customers.
I believe sustainability will drive the most change over the years to come though. For the aviation industry to achieve Net Zero continuous innovation will be necessary. More info about how Victor is approaching sustainability can be found here.
We are delighted to be pioneering SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) through our partnership with Neste, by offering this to customers on every booking, giving them the opportunity to reduce their emissions by up to 80% each time. But this needs to be more widely adopted across the industry, and we want to see others offering this. We are all working together towards our Net Zero goals, and we can only get there by learning from one another and making changes, fast.
Obviously, we’re focused on the ski aspect of private travel; how many charters would you ordinarily expect to handle in a ski season?
From December to February, half-term charter flights for ski holidays are a really important part of our business. Due to Covid we missed the whole season, if not a season and a half, of skiing. It is particularly beneficial to charter a jet for skiing holidays as it provides easier access to resorts and chalets via smaller local airports which are far closer to where you may be staying - a great way to reduce transport times. For many customers, time is limited. If you only have three days to ski, being able to maximise time on the slope by reducing your journey length is only possible by flying private. Naturally it is also easier with your luggage - you can take your own skis/equipment as you choose the size of luggage hold when you select your aircraft. With this, you can also almost completely avoid the fear of lost or damaged luggage.
Like so many things in this world, it is often hard to distinguish one option from another. How does Victor define its unique offering to stand out from the rest?
Best in class customer service - every member has a dedicated personal account manager.
Transparency – At Victor we disclose all the information that we think is necessary upfront for a client to make decision – tail number, operator, photos, insurance certificates – choose most appropriate options – creating a trust between our clients and Victor.
Climate Action – Continuing with transparency, in 2018 we began offsetting the emissions of our flights, and by 2019 we were offsetting 200% of emissions on every flight at no additional cost to our customers. In the middle of last year we started disclosing fuel emissions on every quote, enabling customers to choose the most sustainable option by seeing side by side which jet produces the lowest carbon emissions. Our new industry-leading partnership with Neste now also allows customers to choose to reduce the carbon emissions of their flight by up to 80% by purchasing Neste MY SAF™ on any booking worldwide.
Many would argue that air travel is a huge contributor to our global climate issues, how do you see the aviation industry actually being a force for good?
At a high level, aviation contributes about 3% to GHG emissions with business aviation accounting for around 0.04%. So, although our sector isn’t currently one of the highest emitting sectors, the projected growth – coupled with the fact that aviation is a ‘hard to abate’ sector - means that action needs to be taken now to ensure our industry stays on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. I think the important point is that if the growth of the aviation sector over the next year is not taken seriously, it will account for 20 -25% of GHG emissions by 2050 so it is vital for stakeholders within aviation to prioritise sustainability and make it a critical point. Globally, aviation contributes trillions to the global economy and people need to look at sustainability as an investment opposed to a cost. Huge investment is necessary over the next two decades, but it is the cost versus the value that everyone should get behind for the sake of our future.
Find out more about luxury air charters with Victor at www.flyvictor.com.
Skiing on a clear day and overlooking the snowy white mountains is unbeatable. Combining this with experiencing new resorts and copious amounts of local food and wine is my idea of perfection.
I am a skier.
Ski seasons: One in Morzine.
Favourite lunch and après: Le Panoramic in Tignes, with its luxurious alpine décor and sheepskin rugs is the perfect mountain lunch spot. The food and service are excellent, and if you are lucky you might meet Igloo, the resident St Bernard!
My tip: Ski lessons are not just for beginners. They are the perfect opportunity to perfect your techniques and boost confidence on the slopes. Remember to book in advance for the best options and availability.